By Linah Musangi
16th March 2018
Ms Angelina Francis, a small scale farmer from Kitui County after giving her presentation in New York on March 14, 2018 on how technology has helped her reap benefits from farming. She received a standing ovation for her presentation. PHOTO | NJERI RUGENE | NATION MEDIA GROUP
A Kenyan woman received a prolonged enthusiastic applause after she made an impressive presentation at the UN headquarters in New York about the power of digital technology for accountability in public and political affairs by rural women.
Ms Angelina Francis, a farmer from Kitui County, gave a compelling account of how she succeeded planting and selling tomatoes and maize in her three-acre-farm aided by technology.
She was speaking to a keen and excited audience on the side-lines of the largest gathering on gender equality.
“All my hard work would go to waste when middlemen buy the produce at a throw away price,” the small scale farmer told the audience at the Armenian Convention Centre’s Guild Hall.
“I am proud to stand here in New York to address the CSW (Commission on the Status of Women) because of technology, despite my lack of education, I have left behind those with degrees. I am happy to say that given the opportunities and right exposure, women in the rural areas can go places and do a lot to improve their lives,’’ the class three drop out who would occasionally break into Swahili told participants.
Speaking during a presentation by her organisation, Groots Kenya, an event organised by African Women’s Development and Communication Network (Femnet).
Among those in the audience were Dr Jennifer Riria, Kenya Women Holding chief executive, and Ms Zanelle Mbeki, wife of former South African President Thabo Mbeki..
The organisation was founded in 1995, as a grassroots movement comprising 3,500 women-led groups in 14 counties.
Ms Esther Mwaura-Muiru, the organisation’s lead champion said the project brings in community leaders to help women achieve economic empowerment.
“Our long-term investment is to support the establishment of community-driven mechanisms and innovations that enable effective participation of grassroots women in decision making and leadership structures in order to ensure that resource allocation, policy and development programmes are responsive to community needs,’’ Ms Muiru explained.
Members use smartphones to access and exchange information that guide them in farming methods and marketing and exchange any other useful messages.
The teams also communicate mainly through WhatsApp groups which have been formed from counties to ward levels, depending on programmes.
“We have been and want to keep on working smart,’’ said Ms Muiru.
Angelina explained that her “inspirational’’ trip to the US had motivated her to lead her colleagues in Kitui to work harder on their farm projects even as they focus on ensuring their rights are not violated through unfair practices.
“I will fight hard to ensure that other rural women there can also come this far. We will also fight hard and ensure that middlemen do not step in our space to exploit us,’’ she said amid cheers.
She narrated how she had moved from “struggler’’ to a producer of tomatoes and green maize on a piece of land of “between two to three acres.’’
“I have also been able to buy my own motorbike which I use to transport tomatoes and maize to the market. And I make sure I ride it myself,’’ she said in conclusion, receiving another standing ovation.